[Humanist] 23.540 new publication: what to do about research data

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jan 6 09:59:43 CET 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 540.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 06 Jan 2010 08:58:48 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: report on research data

Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data 
in the Digital Age,
Committee on Ensuring the Utility and Integrity of Research Data in a 
Digital Age, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)

http://www.nap.edu/ (under Best Sellers)

Press release

Report Offers Principles for Maintaining the Integrity
And Accessibility of Research Data

WASHINGTON -- Though digital technologies and high-speed communications 
have significantly expanded the capabilities of scientists -- allowing 
them to analyze and share vast amounts of data -- these technologies are 
also raising difficult questions for researchers, institutions, and 
journals.  Because digital data can be manipulated more easily than 
other forms, they are particularly susceptible to distortion.  Questions 
about how to maintain the data generated, who should have access, and 
who pays to store and maintain them can be controversial.

Maintaining the integrity and accessibility of research data in a 
rapidly evolving digital age will take the collective efforts of 
universities and other research institutions, journals, agencies, and 
individual scientists, says a new report from the National Academy of 
Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, 
which recommends principles to guide these stakeholders in generating, 
sharing, and maintaining scientific data.

Research institutions need to ensure that every investigator receives 
appropriate training in conducting research and managing data 
responsibly, the report says.  And these institutions, along with 
professional societies, journals, and research sponsors, should develop 
and disseminate standards for ensuring the integrity of research data 
and update specific data-management guidelines to account for new 
technologies.  After an investigation by the Journal of Cell Biology 
revealed that a significant number of images submitted to them had been 
inappropriately manipulated, for example, the journal issued guidelines 
on acceptable and unacceptable ways to alter images.  Ultimately, 
though, researchers themselves are responsible for ensuring the 
integrity of their research data, said the committee that wrote the report.

The report recommends that researchers -- both publicly and privately 
funded -- make the data and methods underlying their reported results 
public in a timely manner, except in unusual cases where there is a 
compelling reason not to do so, such as concern about national security 
or health privacy.  In such cases, researchers should publicly explain 
why data are being withheld.  But the default position should be that 
data will be shared -- a practice that allows data and conclusions to be 
verified, contributes to further scientific advances, and allows the 
development of beneficial goods and services.

Research data can be valuable for many years after they are generated -- 
for verifying results and generating new findings -- but maintaining 
high-quality and reliable databases can be costly, the report observes. 
  Researchers should establish data-management plans at the beginning of 
each research project that provide for the stewardship of data, and 
research sponsors should recognize that financial support for data 
professionals is an appropriate part of supporting research. 
Professional societies should provide investigators with guidance about 
which data should be saved for the long term and which can be discarded.

The report was sponsored by the National Research Council, U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, NASA, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department 
of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Energy, Eli Lilly and 
Co., Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Nature Publishing Group, the Rockefeller 
University Press, New England Journal of Medicine, American Chemical 
Society, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 
American Association for the Advancement of Science, American 
Geophysical Union, and IEEE.  The National Academy of Sciences, National 
Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research 
Council make up the National Academies.  They are independent, nonprofit 
institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice 
under an 1863 congressional charter.

Copies of Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of 
Research Data in the Digital Age  are available from the National 
Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet 
at http://www.nap.edu.  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of 
News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

[ This news release and report are available at 
http://national-academies.org ]

Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy
Committee on Ensuring the Utility and Integrity of Research Data in a 
Digital Age

Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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